Can a 17th century account of a witchcraft trial solves the mystery of Grim’s Ditch?

The mystery of Grim’s Ditch

The embankment f Grim’s Ditch as it runs along the eastern edge of Temple Newsam Estate.

Grim’s Ditch is a prehistoric earthwork which runs roughly north/south along the eastern end of the Temple Newsam Estate (Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK). On the early Ordnance Survey maps it seems to peter out just south of the village of Scholes near Barwick in Elmet. This would seem to make no sense it terms of either a boundary or defensive line. Therefore, people have theorized where it might go from there.  Some people argue that it might, for instance, turn west and follow the line of that part of the Cock Beck known as the Grim’s Dyke.  Others have argued that it might turn east and join up with Dark Lane at Barwick to lose itself in what used to be marshy ground around Potterton Beck. I’ve always argued that it went more or less due north, thus linking the Wharfe and the Aire. Two rivers and a connecting ditch would seem to me to make a very sturdy boundary indeed.

 

The Fairfax Demonologia

It was while reading the Demonologia by Edward Fairfax that I came across what might potentially be considered to be proof of my theory.  The Demonologia is an early 17th century work in which Fairfax describes how his children claim they were being bewitched by a number of local women. Fairfax seems to accept this claim without question and, when the affair came to trial at York, he was clearly surprised to find the case dismissed. The account of his journey from York to his home at Fewston (North Yorkshire, UK) is quite detailed. When the travellers get near to the village of Collingham he describes:

 

a bank, which is cast up there for a great space together, (the remains, as I take it, of the intrenchment of the rebels in that place encamped 12th Elizabeth)

 Willian Grainge who edited the work says that Fairfax is referring to the Rising of the North in 1569 but says of the rebels that we were not aware that they threw up any entrenchments here. Neither am I.

 

An ironic parallel

I’d suggest that what Fairfax saw (and misinterpreted) was not an Elizabethan entrenchment but the Northern termination of Grim’s Ditch where it ran into the River Wharfe. If so, there would be an irony in this since Thomas Fairfax, the civil war general and a relative of Edward’s, has given his name to a prehistoric earthwork on the St Ives Estate and Bingley.

Of course, it’s an issue not capable of poof. The Collingham earthwork, whatever it was, is long gone and, as far as I know, this is the only reference to it. But for what it’s worth, the idea that it was Grim’s Ditch seems right to me.

 

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Discover the Heritage of Otley and District A new Thursday morning Heritage course for the WEA

Venue: Otley Courthouse, (Courthouse Street, Otley, West Yorkshire, LS21 Dates21/09/2017 – 30/11/2017

Fee: £77.00

 

Anglo-Scandinavian cross shaft with dragon carving. Otley.

This course explores the development of Otley and the surrounding area. Most sessions will be indoors but two guided walks/site visits are also envisaged. Topics will include: The Wharfe Valley in Prehistoric and Roman times: prehistoric trackways, Roman roads, prehistoric monuments (e.g. Bull Stone, hut circles on Otley Chevin), Roman settlement in the locality Anglo-Saxon and Domesday Otley – place name evidence, Elmet and Craven, archbishop of York’s estates in Wharfedale, effects of Norman Conquest Medieval Otley – place name evidence, documentary sources, field systems, modern map evidence Tudors and Stuarts – effects of the dissolution of the Monasteries, development of gentry classes, Tudor/Jacobean housing boom Church and chapel; rise of non-conformity, Waterloo Churches, role of churches in social life Transport networks- pack horse routes, turnpikes, railways Victorian and early 20th century Otley – agriculture and industry, tourism, development of commuting

For further details or to enrol online go to the WEA website.

Discover the Heritage of Otley and District

Wharfedale looking towards Burley and Otley

Wharfedale looking towards Burley and Otley

For seven Thursdays starting on January 19th 2017 (with a break for half term) I will be teaching a new heritage course for the WEA.  It will be based at Otley Courthouse, (Courthouse Street, Otley, West Yorkshire, LS21 3AN.The standard fee £48.00 though the course is FREE if you are in receipt of income related benefit (only SEA funded).

The course will look at the following topics:

  • Anglo-Scandinavian cross shaft with dragon carving. Otley.

    Anglo-Scandinavian cross shaft with dragon carving. Otley.

    The Wharfe Valley in Prehistoric and Roman times: prehistoric trackways, Roman roads, prehistoric monuments (e.g. Bull Stone, hut circles on Otley Chevin), Roman settlement in the locality

  • Anglo-Saxon and Domesday Otley – place name evidence, Elmet and Craven, archbishop of York’s estates in Wharfedale, effects of Norman Conquest
  • Medieval Otley – place name evidence, documentary sources, field systems, modern map evidence
  • Tudors and Stuarts – effects of the dissolution of the Monasteries, development of gentry classes, Tudor/Jacobean housing boom
  • Church and chapel; rise of non-conformity, Waterloo Churches, role of churches in social life
  • Transport networks- pack horse routes, turnpikes, railways
  • Victorian and early 2th century Otley – agriculture and industry, tourism, development of commuting

To find out more or to book a please visit the WEA website.

 

People Resources and Heritage in the Wharfe Valley

Regrettably this course has now been cancelled.

A new heritage course for Ilkley

Starting on the 6th of April 2016 I will be teaching a 7 week heritage course for the WEA at the Ben Rhydding Scout and Guide Headquarters (Wheatley Lane, Ben Rhydding). Sessions run from 10.00-12.00 each Tuesday afternoon. The course costs £44.10.

Content

Wharfedale

Wharfedale near Burley

The course consists of four classroom sessions at the Scout Headquarters in Ben Rhydding. These alternate with three guided walks. The classroom sessions will focus on how people have used natural resources and how this has affected the development of the landscape. The three guided walks will focus on surviving historic buildings in in in the three communities of Addingham, Burley in Wharfedale and Ben Rhydding

To find out more or to book a place visit the WEA website